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The 'Invisible Hand' and British Fiction, 1818-1860
Adam Smith, Political Economy, and the Genre of Realism
 
 
Palgrave Macmillan
 
 
 
 
 
12 Apr 2011
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£56.00
|Hardback Print on Demand
  
9780230290785
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eBooks ebook on Palgrave Connect  ebook available via library subscriptions ebook on ebooks.com 
 
 


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DescriptionReviewsContentsAuthors

Some economic ideas are too interesting to be left to economists. This book argues that Adam Smith's metaphor of the 'invisible hand' – in which selfish economic actions are mysteriously transformed into aggregate social benefits in a capitalist economy – implies an entire spatial and temporal system in which the morality of any particular action can only be understood in the context of society as a whole. The 'Invisible Hand' and British Fiction argues that while political economists focused only on the optimistic outcomes of capitalist moral activity, Smith's model of ironic morality also influenced the work of novelists including Austen, Dickens, Martineau, Thackeray, Gaskell, and Eliot. Their realist novels represent the reconciliation between individual ignorance and systemic overview as much less stable than the economic synthesis, using omniscient narrative voices, multiple perspectives, and humor to depict a wide variety of possible outcomes. Smith shares with the realists a vision of modern society that is structured around a fragile trust in the benefits of unintended consequences.


Description

Some economic ideas are too interesting to be left to economists. This book argues that Adam Smith's metaphor of the 'invisible hand' – in which selfish economic actions are mysteriously transformed into aggregate social benefits in a capitalist economy – implies an entire spatial and temporal system in which the morality of any particular action can only be understood in the context of society as a whole. The 'Invisible Hand' and British Fiction argues that while political economists focused only on the optimistic outcomes of capitalist moral activity, Smith's model of ironic morality also influenced the work of novelists including Austen, Dickens, Martineau, Thackeray, Gaskell, and Eliot. Their realist novels represent the reconciliation between individual ignorance and systemic overview as much less stable than the economic synthesis, using omniscient narrative voices, multiple perspectives, and humor to depict a wide variety of possible outcomes. Smith shares with the realists a vision of modern society that is structured around a fragile trust in the benefits of unintended consequences.


Reviews

'This book makes a strong case for the humanities through its interdisciplinary study of political economy in the nineteenth century...Courtemanche's theoretical framework is elegant and compelling. With the aid of Smith's metaphor, she contraposes a worm's-eye view with a bird's-eye view, and then uses this contraposed pair to represent the worker and the landowner, the economist and the literary philosopher, the literary character and the narrator.' - Leeann Hunter, New Books on Literature 19


Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction: Capitalist Moral Philosophy, Narrative Technology, and the Bounded Nation-State
PART I: READING ADAM SMITH
Imaginary Vantage Points: The Invisible Hand and the Rise of Political Economy
PART II: EARLY NINETEENTH-CENTURY NOVELS AND INVISIBLE HAND SOCIAL THEORY
Omniscient Narrators and the Return of the Gothic in Northanger Abbey and Bleak House
Providential Endings: Martineau, Dickens, and the Didactic Task of Political Economy
Ripple Effects and the Fog of War in Vanity Fair 
Inappropriate Sympathies in Gaskell and Eliot
Conclusion: Realist Capitalism, Gothic Capitalism
Bibliography
Index


Authors

ELEANOR COURTEMANCHE Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. She has also taught at Colby College, Macalester College, Claremont McKenna College, and Carleton College. In addition to Victorian studies, her research interests include German fiction, narrative theory, and the intersection between industry and aesthetics.